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What does digital mean for people and organisations? How to survive and thrive!

Updated 02/08/2017 with embedded YouTube recording of the presentation. 

Adrian Malone, Atkins Innovation and Collaboration Director, presented a discussion about digital transformation in a 3D online virtual world where participants can join online from anywhere in the world using a laptop, headset and internet connection.

Organised by Profession Eddie Obeng as part of the ‘Inspiration series’ hosted in Qube, a 3D virtual business collaboration environment. Adrian talks about how this could be a new way for people and organisations to collaborate in the future.

“When I first heard about Qube I thought it sounded like a great concept, but one that I was intrigued to see how it would work in practice. Throughout the session, it was great see how delegates from across the world were able to sit together at virtual tables to network, join break-out groups and capture ideas by placing virtual sticky notes onto the walls. After mastering the controls, within a few minutes, the effect can be surprisingly immersive.

Before the presentation started, I gathered in a virtual circle with the delegates for introductions – a key aim for the platform is business networking alongside sharing ideas. When it was  time for my presentation the group of  virtual members were gathered around a screen for the main discussion. The topic I’d decided to cover was ‘What Does Digital Mean for People and Organisations – how to Survive and Thrive’.

My presentation focused on three key themes:-

  1. Impact of Digital on Jobs and Skills:

I explored the impact of digital on jobs, and on the skills and capabilities individuals and organisations must develop to stay relevant in a digital world. Citing studies by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum (WEF) I looked at the increasing demand for employees able to manage and interpret big data, and how cognitive skills such as logical and mathematical reasoning, creativity and visualisation will create new opportunities as well as challenges for organisations. Globally industry will be seeking to recruit individuals with these new skills in sufficient numbers, whilst at the same time facing the challenge to re-train and re-deploy  individuals with skills which are being eroded by technology and automation. Traditional professional knowledge will still be required, but the skills associated with the application of this knowledge are likely to change, as will the ways in which organisations and technical disciplines are structured.  

See: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf

2. Defining What Digital Means in the Context of the Workplace

Defining Digital: through an interactive session we explored what digital means in the context of the workplace, and I shared a model which I use at Atkins which defines digital not only as new technology (such as big data, artificial intelligence, and virtual or augmented reality), but also in terms of new skills and mindset – the ability to embrace lean and agile ways of working, and to use interactive and experimental approaches to solve complex and emergent business challenges; and as a set of new business models through which we can both (a) improve efficiency of traditional services through automation and other technology, and (b) create entirely new business models and new modes of delivery. A key message was that digital is not just about technology, but about the impact of technology on the ways in which we collaborate and get the work done – and the skills and mindset needed to survive and thrive.

3. Defining What Digital Means in the Context of Innovation

What Digital Means for Innovation: highlighting the importance of experimentation within a wider sensemaking and ‘design thinking’ approach to innovation. A key theme I explored is that digital disruption is making our business environment complex – the pace of change is increasing and the past can less often be relied upon as an accurate predictor of what will happen in the future. Increasingly we face challenges where we may still be able to plan at a high level, but we must sense the way forward through experimentation in delivery. Lean and agile methods fit this environment well, allowing us to move forward through short iterative experiments, applying a Build – Measure – Learn cycle.

I shared one example of a sensemaking approach. Firstly we create insight through bringing together both data and professional experience. We use the data to stimulate questions and to draw out our assumptions. Next we identify our critical assumption(s) and frame these as a series of testable hypothesis. Finally we use design thinking to define a rapid, safe to fail experiment which directly tests our critical assumptions, making sure we are clear about what to measure and how to capture meaningful data. The experiment(s) produce further data which we can interpret by applying our intuition and experience in order to derive richer and deeper insight, and so the cycle repeats. I provided a practical example of using this approach on a real challenge with a client through the Atkins Digital Incubator, which I will share in a future post.

My slides are available to download – see link below. If you would like to know more about the Qube environment see http://qube.cc

Digital Survive and Thrive – Qube – I3P Version






3 Responses to “What does digital mean for people and organisations? How to survive and thrive!”

  1. Hi Adrian,
    Really cool concept! Thanks for sharing.
    I imagine you interact with Qube from a standard desktop environment and not via VR headset?
    Just wondering if you could run a virtual ‘hackathon’ using this system (on a major programme it is difficult logistically to get everyone together) but maybe Cube could help?

  2. Hi Paul,
    Yes, you join via your desktop, with a headset for audio. The link I posted at the end of the article provides more detail and how to get in touch with the providers of Qube. I would certainly think a virtual hackathon or similar, I have had similar ideas myself – it would be an interesting experiment.

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